EUROPEAN captain Jose Maria Olazabal paid an emotional tribute to the late Seve Ballesteros last night after his team stormed to an astonishing fightback to retain the Ryder Cup.
The Europeans defeated their US counterparts in eight of yesterday’s dozen singles matches to turn a 10-6 deficit into an historic 14½–13½ victory.
“Seve will always be present with this team. He was a big factor for this event, and last night I think the boys understood that believing was the big thing,” said a tearful Olazabal amid scenes of jubilation at the Medinah Country Club in Chicago. “I have a few thoughts for my friend Seve. This one is for him.”
Ballesteros, a former Ryder Cup captain who was involved in five European wins against the US, died in May last year after a long battle with cancer.
The European players hailed the hero as the inspiration behind yesterday’s record comeback.
“I’ve no doubt in my mind that he [Seve] was with me,” said Spain’s Sergio Garcia. “There’s no chance I would have won if he wasn’t there.”
Prior to the dramatic afternoon session, England’s Ian Poulter said: “Seve was watching over us and I feel it could be the biggest comeback Europe have ever had. We have nothing to lose. Give 100 per cent.”
Poulter was one of five Europeans to win the opening five exchanges of the day, along with Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose and Paul Lawrie. Poulter thus won four out of four of his matches.
The US fought back and led by a nailbiting 12-11 going into the final straight but Garcia beat Jim Furyk and Lee Westwood won a crucial battle against Matt Kuchar to put victory within Europe’s sights.
With the pressure firmly on Martin Kaymer, the German kept his cool to putt on his second attempt and seal a great and emotional, victory.